SHOWCASE Cinemas has made a U-turn within 24 hours on its decision to withdraw screenings of Blue Story – a critically-acclaimed new film about postcode gang rivalry in South London – at 21 cinemas.
The cinema chain, which own Cinema de Lux in Walsgrave, Coventry, had announced it would be following Vue in pulling the film, following an alleged mass brawl involving 100 teenagers at Birmingham’s Star City on Saturday night.
Anyone wishing to see the film in the Coventry, Warwickshire, Solihull and the Midlands can still attend screenings at Odeon, Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas.
Cineworld, which has cinemas at Solihull’s Touchwood shopping centre, Rugby and an IMAX at Resorts World has confirmed it is not pulling the film.
On Tuesday (November 26), Showcase said it will resume cinema screenings of the film, the debut of writer-director Andrew Onwubolu AKA the south London MC Rapman – who received backing from Jay Z, a fan of his viral web series Shiro’s Story.
A spokesperson for Showcase said: “We took the decision to temporarily suspend screenings of Blue Story to enable us to assess the situation.
“After careful consideration and discussions with the distributor in the last 24 hours, we have come up with a plan to re-instate screenings of the film supported with increased security protocols and will be doing so from this evening.
“We want to reassure our guests that their safety – and that of our staff members – is our absolute priority. ”
Vue cinemas said the decision to withdraw the film was not taken lightly after it said there had been 25 “significant incidents” involving screenings of Blue Story at 16 of its cinemas on the day it was released, November 22.
The move to withdraw the film faced a backlash. One academic Dr Clive Nwonka, LSE Fellow in film studies and author of the forthcoming book Black Boys: the Aesthetics of British Urban Cinema, told The Guardian the “kneejerk” reaction had been “classic moral panic”.
ITV news presenter Charlene White, yesterday tweeted: “Seriously @vuecinemas?! Clearly an isolated incident at one of your locations, but you choose to blame @BlueStoryMovie & ban it from ALL your venues. Utterly ridiculous. Congrats on your achievements @RealRapman. Your hard work isn’t forgotten by those of us with common sense.”
But despite the controversy and with a largely unknown cast, the film made £1.3million in its opening weekend, and is third in the UK box office behind Frozen II and Last Christmas.
Rapman tweeted: “We lost nearly half of our screens on the 3rd day but we still made history with 1.3M in 3 days.
@BlueStoryMovie is no.3 in the UK box office. Thank you ❤️”
Footage on social media appeared to show fighting in the foyer area of the Birmingham cinema in Nechells where families and children were queuing to watch Frozen II.
Six teenagers, including a 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy, were arrested following the alleged violence as a police investigation continues.
West Midlands Police say two machetes were seized and seven police officers left with minor injuries.
A spokeswoman for Odeon, which has a cinema in Coventry city centre at Skydome in Croft Rd, is stepping up security but has no plans to pull the film.
‘We are aware of reports of violence at cinemas which have been linked to the film Blue Story. The safety of our guests and colleagues is our number one priority.
“We have a number of security measures in place for this film, and are currently reviewing these along with our programming, in order to continue to put the safety of our guests first.”
Anyone who was at Star City on Saturday evening and has images, video or information about the disorder should get in touch via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk, via 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.